Recently all eyes have been on Lendal Bridge. A less glamorous bridge deserves our attention: Clifton Bridge. This week marked 50 years since it opened.
I meant to mention this on the actual day (28 October) of the 50th anniversary of its opening, indeed had been planning to for months, but on the day I was grappling with the innards of a new WordPress theme for my ‘new-look’ site (more on that story later) and so I didn’t get around to it. Which is kind of appropriate, as Clifton Bridge is generally unappreciated.
It tends to be upstaged by the more glamorous bridges in town. The Press had a photo competition marking the 150th anniversary of the opening of (photogenic, ornate) Lendal Bridge. Perhaps in a 100 years there will be a similar focus on Clifton Bridge. (Or perhaps it will be a crumbling wreck in a desolate landscape, after we’ve used up all the resources, polluted everything and destroyed the planet. A few survivors might be living on Mars, looking nostalgically at these old photos of mine of Clifton Bridge on some big backup of the internet they took with them.)
Here it is, pictured a few years ago. I don’t know why I’ve got photos of Clifton Bridge, but I have. It’s kind of concretey-looking, without the fancy ironwork and painted bits of Lendal and Skeldergate bridges, and not handsome stone and curves like Ouse Bridge. It just goes straight across the Ouse, no messing about, a proper 1960s bridge, quite sleek and clean. Well, clean lines, grubbied by mud and graffiti and river water.
It deserves our appreciation though, this plain-looking road bridge, as it carries a heavy load these days. All the extra vehicles diverted from Lendal Bridge between the hours of 10.30 and 5. How many more, I’m not sure, but predictions suggested that this, the next road bridge along from Lendal on this side of town, would see a large increase in traffic.
Apparently when it was built some people thought it wouldn’t get used. Doesn’t that seem funny and strange now.
It’s hard to imagine it not being there. This image from the archives (© City of York Council) might help. Where the brick wall and railings are, on the right, is now the concrete of Clifton Bridge. The slope still exists down to the river and the riverside path, as does the brick wall on the left.
Before the bridge there was a ferry here to take you across to the opposite bank. Many residents born before 1963 will remember it.
Lendal Bridge also replaced a ferry. The ferryman’s redundancy is one of those oft-quoted historical snippets. ‘Records show that he received compensation of £15 and a horse and cart.’
I wonder what happened to the Clifton ferryman. Perhaps compensated with a car?
Anyway, here’s to Clifton Bridge, and its fifty years of usefulness.
Elsewhere on the web
A nice article on The Press website: Bridging the gap at Clifton on the construction of the bridge
Their archive of photos includes a photo of the temporary bridge erected before Clifton Bridge was built and another of crowds on the bridge after it was officially opened